A Proposal for Living Art to be Included in the Conversation of Art
Art history tends to focus on non-living matter, such as painting and sculpture, made by humans (i.e. living beings). How does art that is made from living matter enter the dialogue? I propose art can be expanded to include living matter.
My earliest memory is holding a big juicy orange fruit in my small hands. The colour was a neon pop-orange on the whole, with little crevices of rich orange and yellow-orange pigments rising out, leaning toward the belly-button that had just a little green rim around it’s off white circle where the branch once held it just so. I gently moved my fingers over the soft orange surface, feeling the texture of the peel. The orange puffed out its peel as if to show the confidence of promises of taste held within, blowing the aroma of such sweet temptation into my nose, up into the deep holes of my being.
The fruit was crisp and cool in my hands, an overwhelming eagerness to refresh my hunger began to creep in. Time was starting to move faster now. I had to eat the orange now. My hands started to sink into the soft orange. The orange was losing it’s colour. The grey’s were mixing with the whites. The orange and pinks of my finger tips began to recede into black and white greyness. Everything grey. Everything fading away.
I moved my legs and curled my arms to my chest, trying to hold on to my orange in the early morning that was dragging me into reality. No. No. No. I tried to focus on my orange. If I could just believe it to be. Into existence. Or myself back into sleep. It was no use. My orange was gone and I was left in the cold greyness of life in the chilly morning of being. All is grey. Grey the coldness, grey the floors, grey the taste of morning breadth. Grey the nostalgia.
Grey my memory. Orange my dream.
Cultural significance of Living-Art
Popular culture of the world celebrates the ability to preserve objects of man made creation for an indefinite period of time, as seen in many art galleries and museums. I propose a conscious shift towards celebrating art works that are biological and alive. It is only once we begin to engage with the living on a cultural fine art level that we may bring to attention how important the living is and shift consciousness from the plastics to the biological. Once living art is a house hold term we will begin to see corporate design move into a sustainable bio-recyclable direction, perhaps engineering biological egg boxes that grow themselves, can be eaten after eggs are finished, or reshaped to hold milk, or consumed by a pizza box to create sugar for tea! The possibilities are endless, but the initiative needs to begin in the public’s creative outlets.
The Project Orange installation manipulates natural-life into a synthetic variant much like minerals used for pigments are now chemically made.
The final installation will include a bed of Tobacco plants outside the Gallery space. These tobacco plants will be normal non-GMO variants as used in commercial Tobacco farms. The significance of the Tobacco plant is three fold: Significant to my childhood home country, Zimbabwe, significant to the symbol of death and man-made causes of ending life, significant as a plant that is used in genetic engineering research. There will be a second bed of Tobacco plants inside the middle of the Gallery space that have been genetically engineered to smell like freshly squeezed orange juice. On the left hand side
SHANE BODDINGTON - PROJECT ORANGE
will be an installation piece called ’50 Shades of Orange’ that is made up of test tubes suspended from the wall containing bacteria, consuming various food sources with orange pigments, that create a SCOBY or a sort of canvas. On the back wall will be a set of canvases that can grow themselves and paint themselves orange. On the right wall will be three Oculus VR head-sets and accompanying gloves. Upon putting the head-set and gloves on, the viewer will see a virtual version of 50 Shades of Orange and be able to pick them off the wall, and bring them towards their face to smell. The smell will be blown into their nose via a contraption built by the artist, with the scent extracted from the Tobacco plants that smell like freshly squeezed oranges. When the viewer looks back at the Tobacco plants in the middle of the room with the VR head-set, they will see orange fruits hanging off the Orange smelling Tobacco plants.
For Project Orange to reach completion, the following four steps must be completed:
1. Orange Scent Producing Tobacco Plant:
Conceptual: Is the ‘real’ really real?
Genetically Engineer a Tobacco plant to smell like freshly squeezed orange juice. Critical research and first steps (gene extraction) has been completed. Estimated completion date: January 2016
2. Living Art*:
Conceptual: A canvas that can grows itself, and paints itself, and does so with intelligent design of composition.
Genetically engineer bacteria to produce a canvas, and have color produced into it in set pattern through DNA coding/engineering. Significant process has been achieved: the first canvases have grown using a Kambuchua Tea SCOBY and engineered e-coli growing in a symbiotic culture. Research on what DNA codes for bacteria/organism growth patterns is limited and this research will hopefully further this knowledge or advance as breakthroughs are made in the scientific community.
First step of the experiment resulted in its own art series, ‘50 Shades of Orange’ (“Where is the Art in BioArt” curated by Suzanne Anker, October 2014, SVA Flatiron Gallery; Blue Egg: Visions of Nature, November 2014, SVA)
3. Virtual Reality:
Concept: To create relationships between the physical (real) and virtual (unreal).
I have been invited to the Oculus HQ to create a replication of ’50 Shades of Orange’ installation in virtual reality, and attempt to add extra sensory sensations (smell, touch, sound, sight, noise etc) in order to make the virtual more ‘real’ than the real. For smell, I will be using the Orange extract taken from the Genetically Engineered Tobacco Plant that are placed in the middle of the gallery room.
The relevance to using this technology is to bring to attention that we will always reference the organic, no matter how far we remove ourselves from it, as we are ourselves by nature organic. We should not lose sight of the organic through extinction as it will only limit our potential to innovate.
The progress of Project Orange to date has been met with great stride. From the finding of information and the empirical research involved, to the gaining of knowledge and testing of theories, and from building and leveraging the expertise of scientist and engineer contacts - the foundation for this project is firmly established.
SVA Chelsea Gallery, New York City April 2016 Waco Cultural Arts Festival - Arts and Science, Waco, Texas September 2016
To consider: Living Art made by Living beings Living Art made by Non-Living Beings Non-Living art made by Living Beings Non-living art made by non-living beings What is living? What is artificial?
*Living-Art (my definition);
Living-Art; Life that has been created for the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically as a result of genetic engineering.
‘Living’, from the word ‘alive’ - to be alert and active. From the word ‘life’ the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. ‘ing’ the act of doing.
‘Art’ the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.